Marvels of Mock Meat - Theme Week


By Tanya Silverman

Vegan “Chick’n” Tenders. Photo courtesy of Jennifer.

Mongolian beef, pulled pork, tuna salad, and smoked salmon are stocked behind the glass display cases at YamChops, a new butcher shop in Toronto.

Surprisingly, all of these selections are meatless.

Co-founder Toni Abramson says the YamChops experience starts from out on the street with a sign that shocks pedestrians with the words: Vegetarian Butcher. They may enter to appease their curiosity.

“Our environment is not just trying to resemble a butcher shop, but one in which you can try many of the items before you purchase them,” she says.

Her husband Michael Abramson, the other co-founder of YamChops, tells BTR that after working in advertising for 27 years, he wanted to pursue his passion of crafting tasty vegetarian and vegan fare. He spent time earning culinary degrees and experimenting with different recipes, eventually opening the eatery in early June.

So what kinds of organisms are slaughtered for their concoctions? There’s marinated carrots for lox, cabbage for pulled pork, and beets for burgers. One of their most popular items is Coconut Ba-Con, which the owners attest to making a tasty topping on ice cream.

Toni mentions certain health benefits to eating their vegetarian foods like lower trans fats and cholesterol. She adds that YamChops tries to refrain from applying excess salt to their recipes, something certain vegetarian cookeries tend to do to add extra flavor.

Of course, they sell items that don’t directly resemble meat, like Indonesian tofu, “free-range chick pea” spread, juices, and salads.

Michael reasons that the “butcher” angle is useful because there are a number of foods which are “really comforting to vegetarians and vegans that they’ve cut out of their diet–some for moral reasons, some for health reasons–and these are familiar tastes for them.”

The vegetarian butcher shop is Canada’s first–a few others are established elsewhere–but mock meats have been around in various shapes and styles for many years.

VegeCyber is an example of a business that sells assorted foods that don’t contain meat, meat-based products, seafood, MSG, honey, or alcohol. Given all of the omissions, their inventory is quite diverse, encompassing vegan versions of goose, bacon, shrimp balls, chicken legs, and so forth. Most selections are made from soy protein, but others are concocted out of wheat, lotus root, or sea vegetables.

Louisa from VegeCyber tells BTR that their most popular products include vegan steak, chicken breast, king prawn, and smoked drumsticks. When asked if the foods resemble real meat, she says it’s hard for her to say as she’s been vegetarian–almost vegan–for over two decades. She thinks the Vegan Fish Ham is accurate, however.

The products at VegeCyber, Louisa explains, are apt for people transitioning to a vegetarian diet.

The staff attempts to make the lifestyle change easier for those who still crave the proteins they used to receive from animal products.

“Whether [customers] just want to incorporate more plant based meals,” she says. “Or they want to go full vegan, these options are suitable for their needs.”

Further, the world of plant-based proteins is ever expanding. Who knows what mock-carnivorous fare will be on our plates next.